Race and Religion in Creative Consciousness

Lady, you do me injustice in your dread humility. You can’t

see (with your eyes cast down, fearing the warmth in my glance)

poems leap like salmon up through my throat and then fail there, unmated,

speared on the tip of my tongue with each soft word you discard

Ten thousand dead thoughts later, I’m tired of submerging my heart in

salt water, soap flakes, scorn. If it seems strange, then you might

think of the cherry-blossom: what if each spinning petal

muted to gray at your glance? or if the Virgin & Child

fled in a panic of angles and colors each time your eyes darted

from your hymn-book to their pane, leaving a casement that stares

out to the churchyard, the polygon angels scattered upon a

look? Can you hear as my heart, surging with penitent care,

crashes against its cage as if, breaching, a whale were to find the

sea-surface made of blown glass, roiling and shatterproof green?

Look, you have charmed me by chance: with a smile dashed off at the sight of

tulips, with fingers you braid, basketlike, into my own,

verses your laughter writes on my skin as if on a napkin.

Moments of radical life swim through my lips like they’re krill,

not one by one, but the swarm-taste of life and salt, strong as breakers.

I am not greedy, and your blessing is all that I need:

tell me I am free to care, so that, here or hidden between my

notebook-covers, I can shatter this window of wave,

flukes, tail, baleen exploding in starlight for only a moment.

Maybe one night I’ll see you reach both hands into the surf,

drawing me upwards to taste your lips on the face of the water,

first Megaptera in flight. Please, bid me wait—let me sing,

filling the abyss with your echo, with notes I’ve remembered and loved, with

waves made of water and song, sounding my way through the deep.

Spring 2006. Elegaic meter. For Katie.